Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University

Free Syrian Army fighters run across a street in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood in Damascus, January 2013.
Photo credit: Reuters

July 8, 2013 - CISAC In the News

How Syria's Civil War Became a Holy Crusade

Appeared in Foreign Affairs, July 8, 2013

Syria's civil war, already a microcosm of politics and power in the Middle East, could inflame religious tensions and political differences across the region. Theologian and top Sunni cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi called for Sunni Muslims worldwide to fight in Syria against Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah, and Shiite influence. 

Qaradawi's call, echoed by other prominent Sunni theologians, could flood Syria with even more foreign fighters. Thomas Hegghammer and co-author Aaron Zelin estimate that Syria has more than 5,000 Sunni foreign fighters, the second-largest foreign-fighter destination in the history of modern Islamism, and that the number is slated to double in the near future.  

Topics: Migration and Citizenship | Terrorism and counterterrorism | Syria